By MEREL HAENEN
Under the cold but stately gaze of the capital’s most iconic monument — the perched, golden-winged Angel of Independence on Mexico City’s main avenue, Paseo de la Reforma — thousands of women gathered on Thursday, Nov. 25, to march in protest to femicide and other gender-based violence.
The protestors, who occasionally scuffled with police as they marched toward the city’s main square Zócalo in front of the National Palace, were marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first of 16 consecutive days of activism to demand more government efforts to stop gender-based assaults on women, a crime that accounts for more than 10 deaths a day nationwide.
The mostly peaceful crowd, dressed in black and purple (the color of the women’s rights movement), were flanked by metal police barricades and some 1,500 female officers with plastic shields to prevent attacks on the city’s buildings and monuments.
Indeed, the capital’s main structures were protected.
But most days, Mexico’s women are not.
Often referred to as Mexico’s second pandemic, according to the government’s own figures, gender-based violence has been responsible for more than 10,700 female deaths in Mexico since 2011.
And between January and October of this year alone, a total of 842 femicides have been registered in the country.
The demonstration, which was replicated in other cities across the country, was a cathartic occasion for Mexico’s women to raise their voices on behalf of those who no longer have one.
The main objective of the march was to increase awareness of the issue in a nation that ranks among the world’s worst for gender-based violence and where precious little government action has been employed.
According to a recent UN Women study, 65 percent of Mexican women over the age of 15 have suffered at least one episode of violence in their life, and 43.9 percent have been physically assaulted by a current or former partner.
To make matters worse, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has famously downplayed the issue, frequently criticizing women’s movements and feminist marches as political tools instigated by his enemies to undermine his administration.
During a forum organized earlier in the day by the Mexico City government at the Nezahualcóyotl Center for Intercultural Studies, speaker Luz María Barajas Farías was asked what she believes must be done in Mexico to tackle violence against women.
“We have the tools that we need in place for women to live a life free of violence,” she answered, referring to a Mexican law established in 2009 that constitutes the necessary criteria for health services to adequately detect, prevent and educate those afflicted by violence.
“Now, we are waiting for the clock to strike midnight. It is now up to the government to execute the needed action that is long overdue.”